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Suicide Prevention During COVID-19 Pandemic: An Explainer

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Suicide Prevention During COVID-19 Pandemic: An Explainer

Recent research shows that the rapid increase in unemployment, loneliness and stress amid the coronavirus pandemic could result in a spike in suicide rates across the negatively affected nations.

The coronavirus pandemic hit the world worst; containing the virus while treating the infected with less knowledge about the same is a challenge for the medical professionals and scientists. However, currently, less attention is given to the psychiatric consequences of the COVID-19 crisis.

Multiple lines of evidence indicate that the COVID-19 pandemic has severe psychological and social effects. There is a pervasive awareness of uncertainty over the future and an understanding that the pandemic is far from over. Apart from the economic poverty and political upheaval, the psychological sequelae of the pandemic is expected to persist for years to come.

World Health Organisation (WHO) by March-end states that mental health is an inseparable part of public health and significantly impact countries and its population, economic capital and social. To support mental and psychosocial well-being in different target groups during the outbreak is imperative.

Previous outbreaks, fear, and suicide

Nothing in our lifetimes can be compared with the magnitude of disaster brought by COVID-19. The last comparable crisis was to fight the H1N1 pandemic in 2009 resembling to actions taken to battle the Spanish flu. Nearly one-third of the population was affected by the Spanish Flu viruses, and at least 50 million people died.

A significant rise in suicides was reported from several countries worldwide during the 1918–1920 pandemic; many of which were due to mental disturbances from the fear of contracting the disease or the stress of infection with the flu itself. Also, a significant decrease in the social integration and interaction, isolation of mass public spiked the suicide rate.

In the present pandemic, researcher has warned that secondary outcomes of social distancing could increase the risk of suicide, emphasizing the effect of changes in a variety of economic, psychosocial, and health-associated risk factors.

Psychological impact of COVID-19

Multiple research has been conducted to understand the impact of coronavirus crisis on mental health of the general population, health care professionals and individuals with psychiatric disorders.

The psychological conditions of people have declined since the outbreak, wherein they showed moderate to severe depressive symptoms, psychological distress, anxiety, anger rose, which resulted in reduced sleep quality, harmful alcohol use and decrease in mental well-being.

Suicidal behaviour during COVID-19 era

Social isolation, anxiety, fear of disease, uncertainty, chronic stress and economic difficulties may lead to the development or worsening of stress-related disorders and suicidality in vulnerable populations including individuals with pre-existing psychiatric disorders, low-resilient persons, individuals who reside in high COVID-19 prevalence areas and people who have a family member or a friend who died because of the virus.

From a suicide prevention perspective, it is troubling that the most critical public health approach for the COVID-19 pandemic is social distancing.

Factors that may cause Psychological disorder or suicidal behaviour during pandemic

  • Economic downturn

Economic impacts of the COVID-19 can negatively influence the population’s well-being, especially mental health. The economic slowdown would and will increase the stress level among the people. Government’s around the world need to work upon this downfall and try to minimize the effect so that not only the economy but also the people’s mental well-being can be protected.

  • Effect of Recessions and unemployment on mental health and suicide

A research conducted by the University of Oxford shows, the Great Recession, which began in 2007 could be linked at least 10,000 economic suicides across Europe and North America between 2008 and 2010.

Scenario In India

A recent study by a group of researcher shows that suicide was the leading cause for over 300 “non-coronavirus deaths” reported in India due to distress triggered by the nationwide lockdown. It also revealed that there had been a tremendous number of suicides, caused by fear of infection, loneliness, lack of freedom of movement, and alcohol retreat during the lockdown.

Survey by the Indian Psychiatry Society (IPS) reveals that the number of mental illness cases had increased by 20 per cent during lockdown, and that at least one in five Indians were affected.

The IPS warned that the loss of livelihood and increasing levels of economic hardship, isolation, and the rise in domestic abuse amid the pandemic could trigger a new mental health crisis in India and may substantially raise the risk of suicide.

Reports by the National Crime Records Bureau reveals that India reported about 381 suicides daily in 2019, marking an increase of nearly 3.4 per cent suicide deaths as compared to 2018.

WHO reports shows that more than 50 per cent of the suicides globally were committed Indians, making India the highest suicide rate nation in the South-East Asian region.

Suicide prevention during COVID-19

Committee on Prevention of Mental Disorders under the National Academy of Medicine suggested that prevention of psychiatric conditions should be divided into three categories: universal preventive interventions, selective preventive interventions and indicated preventive interventions.

A universal approach is designed for everyone in the general population regardless of their risk for suicide. It is imperative to reduce the stress, anxiety and other mental disturbances by traditional and social media campaigns during COVID-19. Suicide prevention helplines should be made available, and integration of basic mental health services into outpatient primary care may help to minimize the harmful psychological effects of the COVID-19 crisis.

Also, the Governments and non-governmental organizations should provide financial support for people in needs.

A selective approach is for subgroups at increased risk for suicide, for instance, for individuals with a history of psychiatric disorders or symptoms of significant emotional distress, COVID-19 survivors, frontline health care professionals and older adults. Active outreach is necessary, especially in the case of people with a history of psychiatric disorders. Telemedicine can improve the accessibility of mental health care also vulnerable individuals should be advised to limit watching, reading or listening to instigating news.

An indicated approach for individuals who have a risk factor or condition that puts them at very high chance for suicide, e.g. a recent suicide attempt. Individuals in suicidal crises need special attention and constant follow up. Clinicians should have well-defined guidelines on how to deal with suicidal individuals.

Some alerts for future

Recessions and social issues will continue to hurt, but need not cause self-harm. Since the majority of suicides occur among people with existing clinical depression, ensuring secondary prevention – access to effective treatment and antidepressants – may also curb the effect of economic shocks on suicide by checking depression linked with financial uncertainty.

Diagnosing depression and suicide potential gains greater importance during periods of economic crisis. Experts say that “mental illness prevention and mental health promotion should be integral parts of clinical management and service planning in times of financial crisis.”

Also, it is vital to anticipate the changes in socio-psychological needs and planning for mental rehabilitation interventions. These many include 24*7 helplines, wide availability of telephone counselling, mental and behavioural support.

Suicide prevention in this era of COVID-19 and years to come is an important and challenging issue. The methods to mitigate them in times of crisis is known: investment in mental healthcare, including suicide prevention services, and active employment policies, implementation of these actions is what is required.

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All You Need To Know About National Institute Of Food Technology Entrepreneurship And Management Bill 2021

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National Institute Of Food Technology Entrepreneurship And Management Bill 2021

On July 26, 2021, Lok Sabha passed a bill under the ministry of Food Processing Industry. The bill is titled as National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management Bill, 2021. The main motive of this bill is to address issues with the Food Processing Industry, Entrepreneurship and one Institution for National Importance. With the passing of this bill, the Indian Institute of Food Processing Technology (IIFPT) and National Institute of Food Technology Entrepreneurship and Management (NIFTEM) is now merged as Institutions of National Importance, and it aims at providing various research and advancement in learning about the Food Industry and its associated branches. The bill was first introduced in the house in February 2019 but was pending due to protest by the opposition.

Significance of Institutions of National Importance (INI)

With the passing of this bill, the institutions enjoy greater autonomy through which they can carry out various courses, research attracting skilled faculties and students from all over the country and overseas. Good standards in education will be adopted to improve the present and future of education in this branch and sector, overcoming the technological gap in the country. This law aims to improve and introduce new changes in food, bio-nanotechnology, cold chain technology etc. The desired efforts will be taken in terms of human resources and infrastructure developments, labs for research etc. Liberty to open centres anywhere in India is also granted to INI and include courses regarding food technology certification and improving the workforce of the country.

Some other important features of this act are the Institution has been authorized with the Board of Government, Senate and other acting Authorities. The Council of Board will include 16 members from different branches from the same field. The Head will be Chairperson, who will be a skilled person from the Food Industry, the Director, Dean and Registrar. Members appointed from Centre and State Governments, Members from FSSAI and Council of Agriculture Research, as mentioned in the bill. The 16 members of the board will carry out work of taking administrative decisions, creating annual budgets and paths for institution progress as an organization, establishing departments, their appointment terms of services, faculties etc. The Board of Council also holds power to grant Honorary Degrees and Diplomas. The Senate shall be the principal academic body of the Institute, consisting of the people such as Director as the Chairperson; Registrar; Full-time skilled level Professor; and Three academically skilled Individuals nominated by the board from the field.

The Union Minister of Food Processing Industry, Mr Pashupati Kumar Paras, expressed his gratitude to PM Modi for this landmark step in this industry from his Twitter handle, indicating new opportunities in Food Technology Industries. Therefore, this Act looks promising on paper with new opportunities and in Educational Development. Amidst the Pegasus Spyware and repeal of the farm laws, this looks positive from the Modi Government.

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Curious Case Of Pegasus: Explained

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Pegasus II News Aur Chai

Pegasus is a spyware that can hack the victims’ mobile phones and read their SMS messages and emails. The Pegasus spyware is owned by an Israeli software company named NSO Group. According to the various reports, this company has targeted more than 50,000 phone numbers at the Global level, of which 300 are in India for surveillance.

The news broke out after the 17 media partners investigated. This investigation brought into the picture information about a leaked database of mobile telephone numbers of Indian Ministers, Opposition leaders, journalists, the legal community, business people, government officials, scientists, activists and many influential personalities of the nation.

Pegasus Spyware and India

According to the report by the agency, the Israeli company which sells Pegasus around the world says that its clients are confined to ‘vetted governments”, believed to number 36. The NSO Group also says that ‘the target list in India is not ours, never was.’ Their refusal of the leaked database has created a loophole in understanding this case.

This whole case has violated the integrity of democratic institutions. According to the report by the agencies, after the mobile phones of the opposition leader Rahul Gandhi and various other leaders were hacked under the Pegasus spyware surveillance. Multiple tweets were made against the Bharatiya Janata Party(BJP) government in India. This whole case has become one of the major threats in the political arena and the Indian Democracy.

Though at the start, it was used for national security purposes. The explosive expansion of surveillance technology vendors has become a vast human rights and a global security issue. If such surveillance technologies increase, it might cause a lot of problems to countries around the globe. Hence, as a precaution, all these countries need to work on regulating this technology.

According to the reports by the agency, one of the targeted phones by the Pegasus spyware was of the former election commissioner of India, Ashok Lavasa. Various such people and such opposition leaders were somehow against the BJP government having their phones hacked with the NSO-owned spyware. All these instances and the names in the leaked list have pointed figures towards the Modi Government.

The Modi government’s stand on this case was put forward in Lok Sabha by two serving ministers, Ashwini Vaishnaw and Prahlad Singh Patel. These two leaders were also featured in the leaked database. The recent Information Technology Minister, Ashwini Vaishnaw defended the BJP government in the parliament by saying, “the expose was an attempt to malign Indian democracy and its well-established institutions.” She even said, ‘any form of illegal surveillance is not possible with the checks and balances in our laws and robust institutions.’

This case has adjourned the parliament proceedings due to the protests inside and outside the house of parliament by the opposition party.

Pegasus Spyware and World.

 In the statement given to the agency, Access Now, an organisation defending the digital rights of global users, said it was outraged that products sold by NSO were allegedly “used to hack and invade the private communications” of thousands of people across the globe.

At a global level, France’s Emmanuel Macron was targeted in the Pegasus spyware case. As the phone of French President Emmanuel Macron was hacked, the investigation was carried out and later on was published which was directed by the Paris-based non-profit journalism group Forbidden.  After this case came in front of the whole world, the Pegasus spyware surveillance came into the picture.

If this continues for some more time, it will ruin India’s Democratic values at a global level. As well as this might become a huge technological threat between the different nations around the globe.

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Modi Cabinet 2.0: Young and Dynamic Leadership or Otherwise

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Cabinet II News Aur Chai

On the 7th of July, the union government announced the biggest cabinet expansion in the 7 years of NDA rule. The recent expansion increased the size of the Council of Ministers from 53 to 77. About 43 new ministers were sworn in, 15 of which were Cabinet Ministers and 28 Ministers of State (MoS). This is the first cabinet overhaul in the second term of NDA governance.

Experts however claim that the new cabinet expansion is a pre-emptive measure to balance electoral formulae in different states ahead of the 2022 State Assembly elections. It is also conjectured that the reshuffle comes as rectification of prolonged criticism about BJP’s governance in the past 2 years, including the Healthcare management during the Pandemic.

The Performance Paradox

This recent cabinet expansion is a report card of the BJP government’s performance in the last 2 years. Major ministerial changes, such as the resignation and replacement of Dr. Harshvardhan as the Health Minister indicate a confession of their mismanagement of the pandemic.

He has been replaced by Mansukh Mandaviya, a 2 time Rajya Sabha MP who has also been awarded by the UN for initiatives in Women’s healthcare in the past. His appointment as the Health Minister is one of hope for BJP, to change and streamline (a.) the COVID-19 Pandemic response and (b.) BJP’s image in the name of healthcare management.

On the contrary, Anurag Thakur’s promotion from MoS Finance to a Cabinet Minister defies all logical explanations for awarding performance. Not only has India’s economic condition worsened under his management, his controversial statements like “Desh ke Gadaaro ko…” do not present a strong case for him. His appointment is a political investment by BJP in Himachal Pradesh’s state elections next year which happens to be Thakur’s home state.

Similarly, Sitharaman’s finance ministry has remained untouched, after historical mismanagement of our Finance capabilities. All of this reflects a selective approach adopted by BJP, which is one of political hesitation and hyperopic ignorance.

BJP’s Political Calculator

Apart from the ‘punishment’ narrative, the new cabinet expansion has also given an insight into BJP’s political planning.  This expansion has incorporated key leaders from several states that go to elections next year. Moreover, it has also been carefully planned to cover the losses BJP has incurred in the past two years.

As a reward for dismantling the elected Madhya Pradesh government and tipping scales in BJP’s favor, Jyotiraditya Scindia was appointed as the Cabinet Minister for Civil Aviation (a post held by his father as well in ’91) almost after 3 years.

On the contrary, Pashupati Kumar Paras got an early reward for breaking down Lok Janshakti Party’s (LJP) representation in Lok Sabha. He was appointed as the Union Minister for Food Processing, after the attempted coup on Chirag Paswan’s leadership.

Sarbananda Sonowal, who was replaced by Himanta Biswa Sharma as the Chief Minister of Assam after the fresh elections, was also awarded a berth in the Cabinet. It is conjectured that this development was in talks ever since Himanta Biswa Sharma was chosen as the CM.

As the Uttar Pradesh elections near, BJP also made sure to improve representation from the state. Major appointments such as Niranjan Jyoti (MoS Food Processing), Anupriya Patel (Mos Commerce and Industry), and Bhanu Pratap Singh Verma (MoS MSME) were made majorly because of their heavy support base in UP.

Following the same lead, Ajay Bhatt from Uttarakhand was appointed as MoS Defence and Tourism. As seen earlier, BJP has made major organizational changes in Uttarakhand which goes to elections next year.

Some Positives

In the mirage of calculated placements and image reconstruction, BJP has hit a few rights with this organizational change. The new cabinet includes a maximum number of women to have ever served in a Union Cabinet, a first in a nation with largely patriarchal tendencies.

The cabinet has also tried to focus on bringing people with commendable background experience and education on board. Ashwini Vaishnav, former IAS and an alumnus of Wharton School have been given major ministries such as Railways, Communications, and IT. Similarly, Anupriya Patel who has been given the Commerce and Industry as an MoS has also served as an educator at Amity University.

Moreover, the diffused reliance on regional strength has become the overarching theme in this cabinet reshuffle. Even though the ruling party intends to balance the voter dynamics, this regional unity has become something to watch out for.

Yet, the big story remains the ouster of major politicians who have served loyally and faithfully to this government. Ravi Shankar Prasad, Prakash Jaavedkar, and Dr. Harshvardhan are major losers in this dynamic reshuffle. While the current government has tried to modernize the leaders of this nation, it has set a new precedent that loyalty is not the most critical virtue anymore; Election Commission’s schedule is.

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